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Hydro Ottawa has generating facilities at Chaudiere Falls that produce clean, renewable energy.Provided

Shana Sachwani joined Hydro Ottawa because she knew she’d have a chance to make an impact.

“I moved here because I can make a difference for the environment, which is really important to me,” says Sachwani, an electrical engineer. “When I saw what Hydro Ottawa does, I wanted to work for an employer that prioritizes the environment and so that I can give back too.”

In her role, Sachwani works with large customers to help them make their projects more sustainable – for example, if they are looking to electrify their vehicle fleet or retrofit buildings to make them more energy efficient – as well as helping them monitor energy usage and optimize costs.

And Hydro Ottawa places a strong focus on doing this internally as well.

Hydro Ottawa created its first Environmental Sustainability Strategy in 2010, and since then it has substantially decreased paper and water usage, diverted more than 90 per cent of non-hazardous waste from landfills, and integrated electric vehicles into its fleet. It has also increased the capacity of its renewable generation fleet by more than 500 per cent, making it Ontario’s largest municipally owned producer of green power.

Its two new operations centres and main office, completed in 2019, were all designed and built to LEED Gold standards, a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership in healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings. Features include solar energy generation, which offsets about 18 per cent of the energy demand at its East Campus and 100 per cent at its South Campus, and a rooftop rainwater recovery system that saves more than 1.6 million litres of water per year.

Outside of its offices, Hydro Ottawa is partnering with the City of Ottawa on the electrification of transportation and continues to expand its hydroelectric facilities in Ontario, Quebec and New York state.

A central part of Hydro Ottawa’s corporate strategy is to reach net-zero operations by 2030. This will make it the first municipally owned utility in Canada to reach this goal. On its way there, it has created a working group of employees from throughout the organization to develop its plan.

“Every division in our company has people with unique knowledge in the field that they work in,” says Bruce Lang, director, health, safety and environment. “That’s what has made the working group so effective. Each employee on the team may know tons of things that others may not, so everybody can contribute.”

James Vaughan, supervisor, facilities, says reaching Hydro Ottawa’s sustainability goals involves a mindset shift. He was recently reviewing a possible service for a building but ruled it out when he realized it would have led to increased carbon dioxide emissions. “Every employee has to apply that lens to every decision they make every day. Only if we do that are we going to reach our goal,” Vaughan says.

Lyne Parent-Garvey, chief human resources officer, agrees it will take that mindset to reach net-zero operations by 2030. “It is a short timeline and an ambitious goal. So we need each person’s specialized skills and knowledge. I can see the excitement. In our working group, everyone is ready to go above and beyond to do whatever is needed,” she says.

“We are walking our talk. What Shana is doing with our large customers, we are doing in our own organization and then we are also asking our employees to go beyond work and to green their lives at home as well. That ripple effect is the only way as a society that we are going to get there and protect our planet.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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